Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Auschwitz Memorial and Museum (photo from auschwitz.org)
On July 10, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the Auschwitz Memorial and Museum. He was accompanied by, among others, Nate Leipciger, a former prisoner of Auschwitz born in 1928 in Chorzów, who emigrated to Canada in 1948 and has visited the memorial on more than one March of the Living; Canadian Minister for Foreign Affairs Stéphane Dion; and Rabbi Adam Scheier from Montreal, vice-president of the Council of Rabbis. The guests were welcomed by museum director Dr. Piotr M.A. Cywiński, who told them about the history of the camp and the contemporary challenges of the memorial.
Trudeau laid a wreath and held a minute’s silence in front of the Wall of Death in the courtyard of Block 11, where executions by shooting were held, as a commemoration of all victims of the German Nazi concentration and extermination camp.
The guests visited the vast portion of the museum’s exposition. They saw, among other places, Block 4, which was dedicated to the extermination of Jews and which contains German photographs documenting the arrival of the transport of Jews from Hungary, a model of gas chamber and crematorium II from Birkenau, Zyklon B canisters, as well as human hair taken from the murdered. There is also a display dedicated to the story of storage rooms for looted property which, in the jargon of the camp, were called “Kanada.” In Block 5, the visiting delegation saw personal objects of victims that were found in these storage rooms after the liberation of the camp, such as shoes, suitcases, glasses, brushes and kitchen utensils. The delegation also visited the building of the first gas chamber and crematorium in Auschwitz I.
In the second part of the visit, Trudeau walked through the former Auschwitz II-Birkenau camp. He walked along the rail ramp where the Germans conducted selection of the Jews, and also saw the ruins of the gas chamber and crematorium III, where the Jewish prayer for the dead, the Kaddish, was said. Candles were lit at the monument, commemorating all victims of the camp.
The prime minister also made an entry in the guest book of the museum. “Tolerance is never sufficient: humanity must learn to love our differences,” wrote Trudeau. “Today, we bear witness to humanity’s capacity for deliberate cruelty and evil. May we ever remember this painful truth about ourselves and may it strengthen our commitment to never again allow such darkness to prevail. We shall never forget. Nous nous souviendrons.”